Former Lesbian Jackie Hill Perry Shares How a Revelation About the Wages of Her Sin Led Her Into the Cleansing Light of God

God knew he wouldn’t get my attention in a church. Churches didn’t care too well for people like me. Me, being a gay girl. A gay girl who knew better than to let my feet take me where I didn’t feel welcomed. So God came to my house. I was having a very “unspiritual” kind of night. The TV was on. The morning was hours away. My thoughts were boring and typical until they turned on me. As suddenly and randomly as Paul was struck blind on the Damascus Road, I had the unsettling thought that my sin would be “the death of me.”

Prior to that moment, the sin I wore on my sleeve was that of a lesbian: a label I had the courage to give myself at age 17. This label described an affection I noticed before I knew how to spell my name. When it happened on the playground, I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t quite understand why girls made me feel different. I hadn’t seen any Disney movies that gave me the idea to desire sameness nor had I been challenged by some outside source to see Beauty and the Beast and wonder why Belle couldn’t have been with someone as beautiful and biologically similar as herself. Where it came from made no difference to me. I liked girls, and I knew it.

“But I don’t want to be straight,” I said to God, meaning every single word.

Laying Aside My Loves

Because I knew I liked girls, the conviction I experienced in my room was not only unexpected but also unwelcome. I’d heard more times than I cared to count that what seemed to me a natural enough expression of love was, in fact, unnatural and flat-out abominable.

I had grown up in the traditional black church, where sermons were presented in a Mount Sinai kind of way, both loud and heavy. I’d heard the preacher speak for God when he, with fire and frenzy on his tongue, read to us from Romans 1 about God giving his creatures over to the sinful desires of their hearts, which included men and women “exchang[ing] natural sexual relations” for “shameful lusts” toward members of the same sex (v. 26).

In fact, having seen God’s words for myself, I never once had felt the need to question whether what he said was true. So when my thoughts spoke of my sin, which I knew to be a prompting from God and not my subconscious behaving unnaturally, I wasn’t offended by the idea of my identity being a product of sin. What offended me most was that idea that it (my sin, my kind of love) was to be the death of me. Because if that were true, then surely I would be asked to lay it aside for the sake of life.

I loved my girlfriend too much not to be appalled at the prospect of laying aside not only the way I loved but also who I loved. To do what I assumed God would have me do meant leaving the woman whose voice and body and mind had been mine to hold and keep. To those who had heterosexual eyes, our love was a strange thing. To us, it was a normal, “why would I do anything else” kind of thing. I loved her, and she loved me—but God loved me more. So much so that he wouldn’t have me going about the rest of my life convinced that a creature’s love was better than a King’s.

To me, what I knew to be God calling me to himself sounded an awful lot like God calling me to be straight, as if his only intention were to transform me partially. But that was far from the truth. Though God was very concerned with how I lived out my sexuality, he was just as concerned with what I did with my hands and if my fingerprints would be found on anything righteous. He was just as concerned with my mind and how it held hell in it at all times. He cared deeply that I use my mouth in a manner that showed some awareness that he was always listening.

Homosexuality might have been my loudest sin, but it was not my only sin. God was not about setting me free from one form of slavery only to leave me enslaved to other idols. By calling me to himself, he was after my whole heart. His intention was to turn it toward him and transform it as only he could, enabling me to be holy in how I expressed my sexuality and everything else. When God saves, he saves holistically. So my repentance would not be singular. That night, I knew that it wasn’t just my lesbianism that had me at odds with God—it was my entire heart.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today, Jackie Hill Perry